The countdown to the Olympic Summer Games has been on the minds of athletes, coaches and their supporters for several years.
All of those preparations came to a grinding halt when the COVID-19 outbreak took hold of the world and now, those Olympic dreams will be postponed for one more year.
“It is heartbreaking because you’ve been set on something that has been planned and that’s been a big part of the past four years leading up to 2020,” Ellie Black said, an Olympic gymnast from Halifax.
Tokyo 2020 would have been Black’s third Olympics. The Canadian gymnast set a record in the 2016 Rio Olympics, placing fifth in the women’s individual all-around which produced Canada’s best ever Olympic result in that event.
Her training for Tokyo has been steadily increasing over the past four years, which included overcoming an injury last fall that resulted in her having ankle surgery.
“The Olympics are such a great thing to bring the different countries together, to bring the world together. So, I think we’re all going through this together right now and we’ll be able to come out of it stronger and then be able to have that to look forward to next year,” Black said.
Canada pulled out of the Olympics this Sunday, becoming the first country to do so.
Australia followed and then on Tuesday, the International Olympic Committee announced the games would be postponed until 2021.
Although the news is welcomed by most as being the ‘right decision’, it doesn’t make it any less challenging to process for both athletes and the people who support and guide them.
“We were in a great place from a preparation standpoint and the athletes were extremely excited about their progress. So, for that to be taken away from them in such a short period of time was a very hard thing to get your head around,” Mark Smith said, the head coach of the Canadian women’s softball team.
Smith says the Canadian women’s softball team qualified for the Olympics last summer and have been building towards Tokyo ever since.
“There was a lot of emotion and frustration, these women have worked extremely hard. In fact, we had just finished up a six-week centralization camp here in Halifax and their fitness level was through the roof, their softball skills were great,” Smith said.
Smith says the women recognize and acknowledge that postponing the games is the right decision to make. He adds that during this unprecedented time, pausing international sport competition is the responsible thing to do.
“Sport is a wonderful distraction and it’s something I highly believe in but at this point in time I think taking a break from those realities and dealing with the day to day of just making sure we get through this in a healthy and safe way is by far the most important thing,” he said.